In May this year during the IAAF Okpekpe International 10-kilometre road race, Kenneth Kipkemoi collapsed as he was about to complete the competition. His compatriot Simon Cheprot carried him across the finish line. Because of this Cheprot didn’t win his title but he definitely won at reminding us what humanity is. He showed us what all our athletes need from Kenya but never receive; a country that holds its own especially when it’s difficult.
I cannot imagine the work that goes into sculpting a human body into a world record-breaking machine. Neither can I comprehend why the country they represent manages sports with such disdain. The only time Kenya seems to appreciate its sportspeople is when they’ve won and look really good for optics while no one seems bothered about what they have to go through to win.
It’s shocking how our sports people keep being treated like bottom-barrel rubbish. What did they ever do to deserve this disdain? What did the Paralympics team who hauled 42 medals – 11 gold, 14 silver and 17 bronze – at the International Athletics held in Marrakesh do for the struggle they went through demanding for allowances? What did the Kenyan female rugby team do to warrant missing out on the Dubai Sevens because urgency wasn’t implored in ensuring their travel? What did the athletics and volleyball teams for African Games do to be kicked out of their hotel for lack of payment? What did the Kenyan team to Brazil’s Rio Olympics do to deserve the blunder in the distribution of training and competition kits, accreditation and disbursement of allowances?
The list of indignity and mismanagement of sports in Kenya is long and the recurrence is most disappointing. On that account, it is deeply unkind to ask patriotism of someone to whom the country has only shown hate and disdain. We should henceforth stop gaslighting badly treated athletes into choosing Kenya when Kenya publicly disowns them.
It’s a choice for government and its sports managers to begin to do better by its people. There cannot be money for greedy legislators who do nothing but expand the wage bill but none for people who do so much for the country. It is indeed criminal how the mismanagement of people’s livelihoods is done without consequence.
And as long as this is the reality, I’d like Kenyan sportsmen to go places that see them with the honour they deserve. May they be cognisant of the fact that their primary duty is to honour themselves and that Kenya is not their cross to carry. I want them to go where they are respected, appreciated, paid and taken care of just like Cheprot did for Kipkemoi when he collapsed. It is up to them to hold each other to the finish line because we’ve seen that Kenya is sorely incapable of caring for them.